Wednesday, January 21

causal relationship : pyrex addiction and bisphenol A

My ebay balance is looking a little ridiculous. Im fervently bidding, even sniping, pyrex sets, new and used. Recent exposure to pyrex storage while visiting fervent anti plastic 'rellies' in the States made me a convert; clean, content so very visible, freezable, stackable and heatable. I have Tupperware, most of it is apparently safe, but i dont like heating food in it, never have.

Just so you know, im outing myself. Im a microwave user. We are a MUF (microwave using family). It lives in the pantry, so its on when no ones around and Im not convinced of the research which shows health effects of food thats been microwaved. So Im outing myself as a'microwaver' when it comes to heating leftovers and milk for my one coffee a day. And, just for the record, when it comes to cooking real food, Im a self professed snob and believe that real, good food cannot be 'cooked' in a microwave. Just thought id get all that out there.

I'd seen the research years ago on mutated male fish living in a river downstream from a plastics factory, where the factory waste was run off into the river, contaminating the river and the fish living in it with bisphenol A. The resulting endocrine disruption in the fish was shown to be associated with high exposure to these chemicals, resulting in hemaphrodite fish. The freaky fish freaked me but I have to confess that as an epidemiologist i was very jealous of such a research discovery, what a Eureka! moment. So my holiday exposure to pyrex caused a serious rethink of my household practice.

Evidence from human studies in the last few years suggests some link to cancer in children from exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a component of only some plastics, and supression of male hormones in boys and some birth defects. Canada banned plastic food containers marketed for babies due to the mimicking by the body to exposure to BPA. The epidemiology does not suggest a causal relationship, but an association with higher rates of reproductive and endocrine problems and exposure to BPA. For a good synthesis of the debate read this and new research links high levels of BPA in human urine with increased odds of heart disease;up to 2-3 times greater with higher levels of BPA.

Frederick vom Saal, a professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia in the US, who specifically studies oestrogenic chemicals in plastics, warns parents to “steer clear of polycarbonate baby bottles. They’re particularly dangerous for newborns, whose brains, immune systems and gonads are still developing”. Vom Saal’s research spurred him to throw out every polycarbonate plastic item in his house and to stop buying plastic-wrapped food and canned goods (cans are plastic-lined) at the grocery store. (Read the rest of the article here).

Our house is built on biological building principles, constructed and clad with recycled timbers, contains no electromagentic fields due to fully timber framing and placement of wiring and contains no plastic wall paints or varnish and no MDF so the mountain of plastic storage containers in the cupboard is a little incongruous. Borne of having small children i think; so many small bits and scraps and rather unbreakable. So my pyrex obsession continues until my plan to remove the majority of plasticizer-emitting materials from the the household food chain is complete. I am also rethinking the dozen mixed cans of tomatoes, corn, lentils and coconut milk i have in the pantry. So , even though i use it rarely, sayonara cling wrap, dried out food and plate covered bowls in the fridge and ' Hello' safe and neat and tidy.

New problem. What to do with all the Tupperware?


Rest is not idleness said...

Hello, my name is Pip and I am a microwave user. :)
Very handy appliances, especially when it is very hot, they don't heat up the kitchen as an oven would. Also very good for heating up hot packs for sore backs.
I have a few pyrex type containers with lids that I use in the microwave.
take care

Julie said...

Hey, that's ME you're sniping on that Pyrex!! LOL. I'm also making the switch - I've been trawling op shops, eBay and I buy some new when they are on special (DJ's had them 40% off I think it was, after Xmas). Excellent for baking and then freezing and then reheating in! I do mostly buy the ones with the plastic lids, but I make sure the food isn't touching them so I hope they're OK.

We're also a MUF but if it explodes like my last one it won't be replaced, I think I only use it to heat up the milk for our morning coffee, melting butter and reheating leftovers. Nothing I couldn't do with a small saucepan...

Barbara said...

I've never owned a microwave (or
a mobile phone) but I'm probably
the last Luddite in the Western
world who can make that claim!

Anyone want six miliion pieces
of Tupperware from my late
MIL's kitchen - I think it's

Jen said...

Thanks Kel for passing on your summary of the research you have come across. I update myself on these things every few years, and then continue to use the microwave (guiltily) to do the morning coffee milk and leftovers much like most busy folk...Whats that song by Joe Jackson? 'Everything gives you cancer...theres no cure, theres no answer...' So sunscreen is out, and plastics, and most commercially available building materials, and mouthwash, and... oh god, ill just top myself now.

Lizzie said...

Hi Kel
Be careful with older pyrex. A dish exploded when being lifted by an auditor at my work and took his smallest finger pretty much off. It was not being heated or frozen, just carried. It was very old though. So just take care with the old stuff.

Veggie Gnome said...

Hi, I am mad and I am a gnome. And you described our household. How did you know?!

I will look into Pyrex. Thanks for the thumbs-up. But NOT on ebay as there seems to be a bit of a bidding war on. Don't want to bid against you and Julie! :)

Rixa said...

I have pretty similar microwave usage: for re-heating food, not cooking. I use it a lot in the winter for heating up rice packs, which I stick under the blankets before I go to bed.

Kel said...

Hi Pip- thanks for sharing ;-). MUFsters unite!

Julie - one word-Sorry! I use the ones with plastic lids but they dont get reheated...its the excited plasticides im thinking of!

Barbara - a luddite indeed, so rare on the electrics front. You need to be recognised as a national treasure. Ebay may be a great way to get rid of the theres a though!

Jen, its a toughie, sometimes i go oh bollocks, but im doing so much storing and reheating of leftovers (loving the hot lunch) that its come to my attention. My mum refused to use plastic wrap when i was a kid; only one i knew with wax paper wrapped sangers, so depressing, back where i started!

Lizzie- thanks for that- so far havent 'won' any old stuff so besides the pyrex measuring jug from my grandma, its looking safe.. Crikey- its a timebomb. I cant win!

Veggie - Ummm, great just about done, you can re-enter the race with confidence!

Rixa- they are really so very useful. Im hoping we wont be kicking ourselves in 20 years time! but the researfch all looks pretty good.

Laura Jane said...

What to do with all the Tupperwae?

Flog it on EBay!!!! I know people who are crazy for the stuff, and will buy it via EBay all the time!

And We too are a MUF.

(I really liked the Dawn French book too, not too much information, but modestly, and sufficiently satisfying. A warm read.)

Anonymous said...

I'm also trying to build up my Pyrex stash...although somehow I managed to buy some tuperware the other day that I know I didnt need or want. How do they do that! Cheers, Tricia

Kel said...

laura jane - ebay it shall be! MUFs are coming outta the wood work! and Dawn, god bless her big cotton socks - what a wonderful woman. i learnt lots.

LEF- thanks for dropping by, and as for the TW sales people...theyre trained! be worried i say, be very worried...

naturewitch said...

Hey Kel

I'm on the same track. We try to minimise microwave usage, just using it for the occasional reheat or defrost. Real cooking is definitely on the stove.

Once I get my jars sorted, I'm starting a plastic removal program. Ebay has crossed my mind as well.

I'm particularly upset about Tupperware's Rock'n'Serves. Before purchasing them, I asked whether they were safe. Oh yes, I was assured. Then imagine my horror when I discovered last year they contain BPA. The Chinese takeaway food containers we occasionally get are safer than the Rock'n'Serves which are supposedly made for freezer to microwave use. Grrrr!!!

I've started on the pyrex collection as well, but need to add to it. My plan is as the plastic goes, to assess and reassess what we really need and only buy that. Don't want the careful-before-you-open-it "plastic cupboard" turning into a similar glass one ;) xx